Death and Work

I use to work at a bond shop where seventy percent of the people that worked there are now dead.

When I moved to NY in 1994, I worked at at bond brokerage shop. For those unfamiliar with the business of brokering bonds, here is a brief primer. The major banks trade bonds all over the world with their clients, and if they can’t find a counterpart for their trades they will use bond brokers to sell or buy bonds for them. The business is very lucrative, but it is very demanding and stressful. A mistake at work can cost you your job and it can cost you lots of money.

trading pitI worked with a collection of characters that made each day an adventure. Frank M., my boss, was brilliant. He had been taught by some of the most brilliant minds in finance. Aside from that, he talked to himself all day long and would think nothing of suddenly breaking into an array of Broadway tunes. Rich C., a recovering alcoholic, was Frank’s partner. He was  so paranoid and manipulative that the two of them would literally have fist fights every few weeks.  In his previous career, Rich had worked on a cruise ship and as he put it, he was “the male companion for all of the older lady’s on the cruise.” Joe K., a repo broker  who used to print money all day long, could talk non-stop for hours. He had 5 kids and loved his family dearly. Antonio R., from Italy, spoke as if he had marbles in his mouth. Nobody could ever understand a word he said and he used to jet set every weekend to someplace new. He was rumored to have been super wealthy with a ton of money stashed away in the Caribbean. Rob W., so fat he would break a chair every week because the chairs couldn’t withstand his weight, would eat all day long nibbling on donuts and coffee that inevitably left stains all over his shirt. John S., a non nonsense tough guy from the Bronx, used to have such great relationships with his clients they would bend over backwards to give him business. Finally there was “Jimmy the Fish.” Jimmy was the youngest guy on the desk. He gambled all day long and was always  hung over and had a  disheveled look about him.

They each died young. And tragically. I have always maintained that desk was cursed and by the grace of God the curse passed me by. Most of them died as a result of the attacks of 9/11 as the majority of them worked at brokerage shops in the World Trade Center. After the attacks happened I knew that could have been my fate had I stayed in that business.

In 1996, I left the bond brokerage business of my own accord, even as I left a lot of money on the table as I knew the business would have killed me. In order to be good in the bond brokerage business, I had to go out five times a week. Many times I would have to play golf on the weekends with my clients (even though I don’t like the game and I am not very good at it). After 2 years I became so run down physically and spiritually I knew I had to get out. The tipping point came when I ran into a colleague of mine who worked at a different company. He proceeded to tell me that he had not spent a single night at home in three years as a result of all the entertaining he was doing to secure business. The guy looked like the walking dead and he knew it; but he was so hooked on the money he could not give it up. Tragically, he committed suicide about 10 years later. He walked into the woods in winter, took some sleeping pills and froze to death.

The other reason I left that business was that I knew the bond brokerage business would eventually have the margins squeezed out of them and the business would become primarily electronic. I don’t know how I knew but I did and for that I am grateful.

The lives of those with whom I formerly worked who still survived have been a mixed bag. Sean M., a fast talking Floridian who went bankrupt and got divorced, had to start over. Fred A. and Lisa A. have not worked in years. Wanda L., became a Jehovah’s witness. The rest of we lucky few moved on and have been able to find our own definition of happiness in life.

When I mentioned to my colleague Gil , who worked with me on that desk, about the “cursed” he looked at me with awe and terror. It seems he had never really looked at the brokerage desk in quite that way. When I mentioned that besides the tragedy of 9/11,  two of  our colleagues died after 9/11 (Jimmy the Fish died in his sleep at 34 while Bobby W. died in a hospital from obesity) Gil said he had never analyzed all the tragedy that had befallen our co-workers and was genuinely shook by my analysis. I  do believe I was blessed with a certain intuition that I followed. Perhaps my surviving colleagues would feel the same if asked.

As for now, I am in a new phase in my life. I’ve learned the importance of listening to and following the promptings of my gut. I am walking proof those messages are given for our protection and well being. All we need do is open to the possibility and trust in the guidance.

Steve Clark

Rights For All: Equals Rights For None

In fiance we use to joke how all clients wanted insurance on their investments. However, in a world where everything gets insured nothing can be. For example in insurance, people essentially pool their resources together so that when one person gets their car stolen, there has been enough paid in premiums by the total number of participants in the pool to pay for the new car.  Its apparent that if all the insurance owners all had their cars stolen on the same day, there would not be enough in that pool to cover everyone’s loss. In fact, the insurance company would be out of business.

alone-in-crowdWe are experiencing this principle here in the U.S. with an ever expanding definition of rights. Instead of excepting the premise “that all men are created equal” it seems that every class of citizen needs a special class of protection of its rights. We began with homosexual, then further expanded to include gay and lesbian, then bisexual, transsexual, transgender (don’t ask me the difference because I don’t know), transvestite… and the list goes on. The question is “Where does it end?”

To me this is madness. It is one thing to be free to express ones sexuality in the bedroom and not to be harassed for it. Its quite another to be given special rights based upon your sex acts.

With these new rights enhanced by the litigious Nation in which we live…heaven forbid you cross the “gay mafia.” Catholic orphanages are shutting down all over the US because… well…they discriminate. Based on Catholic teaching, orphanages try to place children with married  couples– even a married couple has to be defined now (1 man and 1 woman). Because the orphanages won’t place children with gay couples, the gay mafia and their minions of lawyers are shutting down catholic charities. In trying to look out for our most vulnerable members of society, it seems more  important to make sure the gay community is placated. We have thousands of years of data from a multitude of cultures that a child does best with one woman and one man in the household. But now we have decided to throw out this common sense again to placate the gay community. So, instead of having gay couples adopt children from other orphanages and leaving the Catholic orphanages to their belief, the gay community demands all resistance be annihilated ( see story) and the Catholic charities destroyed in the process.

This is where the downfall begins.  Previously, Catholic orphanages had rights based on the First Amendment of the Constitution which establishes the free exercise of religion for all citizens. Instead of the courts enforcing the law, thus allowing the Catholic charities to proceed in adoption placement consistent with their religious beliefs, the opposite is now occurring. It appears that in 2014 we have new rights extended to the gay community that now supersede those rights guaranteed in the First Amendment.

That is the slippery slope of change and how it begins. As we create more and more minorities and sub-classes of human behavior, more and more laws need to be written. In the process of making every sub-group special, we end up annihilating the rights of all people. Its here that I’ll restate my original premise: When everybody has insurance no one has insurance. When everyone has special rights no one has rights.

The French celebrate Bastille Day. It was a day when a thousand armed Parisians stormed the Bastille, savagely murdered a half-dozen guards, defaced their corpses and stuck their heads on pikes. The founders of the French Revolution all died violently killed by the violence they themselves spawned. Ultimately, those Founders were not deemed pure enough, holy enough and so were killed.

The same fate awaits us here at home as we erode and destroy the rights granted us in our Constitution. In the end, there are never enough laws for a corrupt society. Those who pervert the system and inflame the uprising for the sake of special status, those who cry Social Justice as they advance, will inevitably be the victims of the monster they themselves created.

 

Steve Clark

Return That Call!

The quality of my life is dependent on the commitments I make.  Seems pretty simple right? And it all starts when we return that call and actually have that luncheon with our friend… like we said we would.

I used to market a mutual fund that had a billion dollars under management.  I communicated weekly with the portfolio manager to get updates.  Whenever I asked for an update I would get it. When I needed a conference call to happen he would be on the line. If I called him and he was overseas he would call me back as soon as he was able. I didn’t know at the time that he was one of the most senior people at the firm, which to this day is one of the largest money managers in the world.  In fact, if you watch Bloomberg news he is frequently on TV as an expert.

Its reasonable to think that if you are working together managing a billion dollars that a portfolio manager should return your phone calls. However, when we did experience a huge downturn in the fund (unrelated to his performance which eventually terminated the fund) even then his attitude never changed. He would always honor and stand by his word. He did what he said he would do. keep your word  Apart from being super smart and talented, by far his most admirable virtue was his integrity and reliability.

In looking back on my own life and assessing my many failings and foibles, by far my worst errors occurred when I failed to live up to what I said I would do. People rely upon your word and when you don’t keep it it creates chaos.

I do believe the reason the US seems in such a downward spiral is that we no longer honor our word. For example when selling health care to the country, President Obama made a commitment when he said ” if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” We now know what he knew then. The statement was a lie. Worst yet, nothing was done by the President to honor that commitment. The President then went on to restate the lie (and I paraphrase): “You can keep your doctor only if you were not in a substandard plan.”

The tragedy is that as a country there is no outrage, no shock as we all come to expect and accept the lies. This has become the culture we live in and tacitly accept. The media, the Democrats and the Progressives have each defended the President and his lie. This is a testament to their own corruption.

The unfortunate fact is that all of our major institutions have failed us. The Department of Defense should be called the Department of War; the IRS instead of collecting taxes harasses citizens they don’t like; the Department of Education has collectively made all of us more stupid, and the media only reports the stories that fit their world view. All of these institutions now do the opposite of what they were intended to do. But lest we forget, or abdicate responsibility,  these institutions are populated by us, our fellow citizens. These institutions are just a reflection of who we have become. We can no longer see the truth for what it is. Instead, we are all content to focus on the white lies that are everywhere and cast the first stone outward. But these same little lies are tearing us apart and ruining the fabric of this country

When I met my co-host Carole Gold at a meeting, one of the tenants of the meeting was that if you met someone at the event, you had to commit to meeting them afterward for either lunch or coffee. Because Carole and I both honored this agreement, we now have a podcast together and hopefully more fruitful business ventures on the horizon. This is the power of honoring the agreements we make. I have come to the point in my life where I only agree to do things when I am certain I can honor the commitment.

In the end that is what I believe will solve many of the problems that ail us. I can’t change the masses but I can change myself to make this world a better place. As the saying goes, when a butterfly flaps its wings in Austin…sooner or later… wind patterns change in Japan.

Collectively,  if we each agree and honor the things we said we will do, real change will come to this country and beyond.

Steve Clark

 

Remember Mississippi

Yesterday, in efforts to retain his status as the Republican Party’s candidate for re-election, Senator Thad Cochran furthered the cause of stripping away the veil of illusion that obscures the extent to which our political class is corrupted and broken. We owe him a debt of gratitude for exemplifying the worst of what political junkies are capable of in their hunger to retain power.

MississipiDismissing, without the slightest thought, the values and principles most Americans hope to find in their elected representatives, the Republican Establishment (read as Mitch McConnell, Haley Barbour, Orin Hatch, et al) pooled its resources to use race baiting and fear mongering to crush the candidacy of a decent, principled Conservative of their own party in favor of retaining a 77-year-old-obviously-senile-incompetent-42-year-member-of-Congress.

The challenger, Chris McDaniel, is an attorney, conservative commentator, and Republican politician in the Mississippi Senate since 2008. Yesterday, McDaniel actually received 25,000 more Republican votes than Cochran. However, because the Republican Establishment, via false advertising and fear-based robo-calling, mobilized 35,000 African American Democrats to cross over and vote Republican…their deceitful and manipulative methods resulted in a 4000+ vote win for Cochran.

I listened to many callers to conservative talk radio today. The general consensus is outrage and disgust. The good news is that anger and outrage, once transformed into righteous indignation, can be a force for good.

That is now our challenge.

While it would be easy to remain enraged, as so many are, at the Republican party’s lack of ethics and arrogance bordering on criminality…rage will not get us where we need to go. We need to awaken to what was done in Mississippi and commit to not allowing such tactics to prevail elsewhere. We need to become educated, vocal and determined citizens in order to weed out the liars, crooks and manipulators within both parties by remembering not only Mississippi but also that there are more of us than there are of them

Our Founders, both John Adams and George Washington, knew the two party system would become corrupted and fail. But they also knew We The People would be here to do the heavy lifting and willingly pay the price that sustaining liberty requires.

The moment has arrived. Liberty is at risk. Now is the time. Ours is the price. We pay it now or lose everything worth having.

Carole

Barack and Hillary: Double Trouble

The American spirit at its best is unfettered optimism. Our belief in the ability to accomplish a goal despite all odds is why so many people from around the globe want to be Americans. But optimism, in excess, can also be a detriment. Absent any basis in reality or fact, optimism deteriorates into mindlessness.

evilSuch was the case in 2008 and, it appears, may be the case in 2016.

In 2008, the nation was captivated by the emergence of a well-educated articulate, seemingly bright, charismatic, civic-minded African-American candidate for President. Our national optimism propelled a majority of us to rally behind his candidacy as he represented the culmination of decades of optimism that we would one day rise above the superficiality of race and see a person based upon the content of his or her character.

We erred by allowing our optimism to negate our discernment. We raced past logical review and analysis of the candidate’s background, achievements, and philosophical underpinnings to embrace his bumper sticker. We were content with a promise because we are, after all, Americans and doesn’t every American want what is best for the country? Apparently not.

The Presidential election of 2016 portends a similar fate unless we temper our wishes with our intellect. Hillary Clinton remains the Democrat front-runner should she make a formal announcement to enter the race. Hillary has likely been promised that position should she desire it. While I don’t yet know her slogan, we need to see past the prospect of the “first female President” and face the truth of Hillary’s career and her condition.

Hillary Clinton failed at passing socialized medicine but got it anyway to what we now know to be the Nation’s harm. She worked for the Children’s Defense Fund advocating children’s rights but represented an admitted child rapist and bragged at her success in getting him off “for time served” due to an evidentiary error…not to mention her laughing at the rapist having “beaten” a lie detector test. Hillary disparaged the women her husband sexually harassed, fondled, or had sex with rather than condemn his behavior. She failed to adequately protect and defend our Embassy in Benghazi and it now seems she knew the President was lying when he blamed a video for the attack then stood by that lie as she had stood by her husband’s immorality.

And Hillary is not healthy. She has fallen, had blood clots, arrhythmia, and who knows what else. Lately, she has made statements about she and her husband’s financial status that draw into question either her version of reality or her values system.

How does that saying go? “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.” Let us not be so eager to follow the first black President with the first female President that we once again throw caution to the wind and see not what is in front of us but rather what’s being sold to us.

Carole

Choose Your Addiction Wisely

Steve and I post independently of one another. I get to read his blogs the same way you do which is when they’re published. Yesterday, when I read his post titled “We’re All Drug Addicts” I knew I had to write my own thoughts on a topic about which I have first-hand knowledge. In fact, when Heath Ledger overdosed, I was contacted by several media outlets to weigh in on the subjects of addiction, suicide and drug overdose. (A fully developed interview of me following Ledger’s death can be listened to here.)

Meditation2Anti-depressants are proven to lead to and/or increase incidents of suicidal thinking. In my twenties I battled depression and anxiety. A physician put me on anti-depressants and tranquilizers to combat the condition. When I realized I was addicted to the medications I decided to stop taking them. Shortly thereafter, I tried to commit suicide and came very close to succeeding. It was a turning point in my life as it awakened me to the realization that I  had to either do it again and succeed or begin to live my life differently. I choose the latter.

It is now decades later and I live a joyful and rewarding life. In no small part it’s due to a different addiction. I meditate daily. Your reaction may be “Well, that’s stretching it a bit since mediation is hardly an addiction.”

But it is.

I need to meditate every day. I’m at a loss when I don’t get my “fix” of that meditative state. Without those feelings of peace, joy, calm and clarity that I receive from meditation I feel tense, discontent, frazzled and off my game. So you see, I am addicted. But I’ve also consciously chosen my addiction because it enhances rather than diminishes the quality of my life.

The point is that it may just be human nature to be addicted. Some choose alcohol, drugs, pornography, chocolate, gambling, serial adultery, masturbation, twitter, clothes shopping…whatever. Regardless, we humans have Free Will and so get to choose that to which we are addicted.

For me, the contrast is no contest. On drugs, I was sedated, slow of thought and harming vital organs with unnecessary and toxic side effects. On meditation, I am sharp of mind, peaceful of spirit, accepting of life and creative of soul.

So to paraphrase Steve, if we’re all addicted remember: You get to choose to what.

 Carole

We Are All Drug Addicts

I was at a bachelor party a few years for a friend of mine who was about to get married. The party was in New York City at an exclusive club and all the people seemed successful. They all had very good jobs. The majority of them had families and each seemed stable and well adjusted. After the dinner, I went to the bathroom and ended up standing with my good friend Alex waiting  for a stall to open. He said that we’d be there forever if we didn’t do something. It seemed the whole dinner party was doing drugs in the stalls. He winked at me then kicked down 2 of the stall doors.  Inside those stalls were the people from our dinner party snorting cocaine… huddled as if around a campfire, each trying to get their fix.

drugsAs Alex kicked the bathroom doors in, the drugs went flying as the men scrambled out of the stalls thinking they had been busted by either the police or the bouncer. However, once they saw it was my friend Alex who had created the havoc, they all turned on him cursing and screaming for scaring the hell out of them. More importantly, it seemed ,was their anger over the wasted cocaine. I’m not uninformed. I  know people do drugs. But, I never thought this group of people would be doing drugs. To be so open about it and to risk doing it in such a public place, left me dumbfounded.

Alex was a broker on Wall Street and his job was to entertain people. He told me “all of my clients do drugs.”

Once we returned to the table, I couldn’t look at the people in quite the same way. Given the high profile nature of Wall Street jobs, none of the major firms wants their employees to end up in the newspapers. I am a firm believer in personal freedom. However, with freedom comes personal responsibility. The way I looked at it, these guys were taking huge risks for a moment of pleasure.  I’ve seen plenty of people fired for getting caught doing stupid stuff and it can alter your career, not to mention your life, forever.

Coincidentally, a few weeks later I drove to Massachusetts for a small get-together. I ended up drinking beer with a DEA agent who worked drug enforcement all over the country. As we enjoyed our beers he regaled me with stories of the drug trade in the U.S. He told me he had been in the DEA for over 25 years and over the last 5 years he had never been busier. I thought that was ironic given that as far as I knew drug use had gone down over recent years. He said that the DEA figures estimate drug use in the United States at over 70% of the population! I was shocked. He further explained that you have to look at drug use through a different lens-given the rise of the pharmaceutical industry. It’s simply a fact that more and more people were getting addicted to pharmaceutical drugs. “The doctors are the new drug dealers” he informed me. Brene Brown, American scholar, author and public speaker has said, “For the first time in history the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that drug overdose is the leading cause of death now beating automobile deaths. More people die from prescription drugs overdoses obtained from their friends, relatives and physicians.”

As the DEA Agent and I continued to talk, he suggested a small test. “Next time you’re in New York City count the amount of pharmacies you see.”  So, the next day when I was back in NY I did just that. I counted 4 large pharmacies in my 3 block area. That’s 1 1/3 per block! When I grew up there in the 70’s I might have been lucky to find 1 pharmacy every 10 blocks. Now it appeared there was probably 1 every 2 blocks. All I could of think was when did this happen?  The bottom line is that these pharmacies wouldn’t be there if there were not customers (aka “users”) seeking what they are selling (aka “pushing”).

Personally, I don’t take any type of drugs. That’s the mirror I hold up to my children. When I do get sick and take the over the counter drugs I get completely knocked out. I remember a few years ago I had to take a cold medicine while at work and ended up in the infirmary taking a nap as I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Today, due to its potency and likelihood of being used by kids as part of a drug cocktail, many pharmacies now keep cold medicines behind the counter.

Why are our kinds on drugs? Perhaps we should start with their parent’s medicine cabinet for the answer.  “Do as I say and not as I do” has never worked. Nowhere is that truer than when 70% of one generation is doing something it is judging and condemning in the next generation.

From this vantage point, what is happening to our society all begins to make sense. Our government could not be doing what it is in fact doing if the citizens were awake and aware of the ever-encroaching centralized control and police state that now confronts us. Our politicians routinely break the law because they know that neither the justice system nor the media will hold them accountable. The citizens, for their part, are conveniently too distracted and sedated to care thanks to a joint effort between big pharmaceutical companies and big government

For the rest of us who are sober, clean, awake and aware…watching the U.S implode is like watching a fatal car crash in slow motion.

Steve

Make Your Own People

“All fathers are intimidating. They’re intimidating because they are fathers. Once a man has children, for the rest of his life, his attitude is, To hell with the world, I can make my own people. I’ll eat whatever I want. I’ll wear whatever I want, and I’ll create whoever I want.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Jerry Seinfield,  Comedian / Writer

I never knew I would have 6 kids and if you asked me 20 years ago that I would be a father of 6, I would have thought you were crazy. The fact is I did not plan it this way but my wife and I felt it was always important to embrace life and as the kids came, we were overjoyed.  Given the large responsibility of raising so many kids, I don’t have a lot of time for much else, so my kids have become my social circle, to paraphrase who needs friends when you make your own people. Having 6 kids is expensive, time consuming and leaves me completely exhausted. However there is no greater joy for me than spending time with my family.Illegal Alien

But most of the Western World no longer has kids as they once did and even in the U.S are birth rates are declining. Patrick Buchanan wrote a great book called “Death of the West”  in which he talks about the consequences of the Western World no longer having kids. Given the huge population explosions in Latin America, Asia and Africa, this new growing class of people are set to cause massive shifts in global power. The fact is the West is dying and soon to be replaced with a new world order.

Over the last 20 years countries in Europe have had a huge influx of immigrants mostly from the Arab world and this is where it gets interesting. Native French families are having less than 2 babies per family which is below the replacement level to keep the population growing, while the French Arab immigrants have birth rates much higher (close to 6 per family). In his book, Buchanan believes that given these rates, France will become a Muslim country with over 50% of the population being Muslim by 2050. It is the ultimate conquest of a nation, and in this case a culture, without firing a shot.

The United States is currently being invaded by Latin America with thousands of illegals crossing the border every day. There is currently no limit on this escalating influx. The US border patrol is now releasing these people into the United States absent any way to control or document the flow of illegals. I think the reasons are two fold:

  • The abortion of over 50 million Americans since Roe v. Wade
  • The Social Security “Ponzi Scheme.”

Given that the U.S has aborted over 50 million babies since Roe v. Wade was passed, we have had more abortions in this country than anyone ever anticipated (except perhaps Progressives like Margaret Sanger who founded Planned Parenthood as a means of eliminating minority and “unsavory” populations). All of contributions those lives lost could have had on our culture was destroyed in the womb. But if you combine a lower birth rate with 50 million abortions with an overall aging population you care bound to find yourselves in the predicament we now face…such as the U.S government’s many promises to its citizens that it can no longer keep. To wit: Social Security.

Social Security is the retirement fund that all Americans pay into so that once they hit 65 they can collect their retirement payout. The fact is that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme. There is no money in the fund andwhat was there was either spent rightfully or raided by Congress for other purposes! The only thing that is in the Social Security fund are IOU’s !  As a result, this is how Social Security works today:

  • 25 year old James pays $1,000 a month into Social Security and,
  • Social Security takes James $1,000 dollars and pays Mike (aged 65)

The moment we run out of young people that can pay the retires, the system collapses. That moment is on the horizon and soon. The US government prosecutes and takes Ponzi schemes very seriously and will send you to jail if you enrage in one (see Bernie Madoff). The irony is that the US government runs the largest Ponzi scheme in the history of the world and is beyond prosecution… or accountability for that matter.

To understand the scam and how it relates to illegal aliens you need to know the following:

  • It is illegal to knowingly hire an illegal alien in the U.S.
  • As proof of documentation illegals get fake illegal Social Security numbers and by doing so the companies that hire them are no longer held liable.
  • When the company pays the illegal and deducts money from his paycheck to pay Social Security, that money then goes to pay the current retirees.
  • The illegal can never collect his Social Security benefits because he is not an American citizen.

So then, here  is a major factor in the Federal government’s love affair with illegal immigrants.  Our elected officials can mask the fraud that the U.S. government is currently engaged in as they ride out their prosperous careers. They then exit the system having become personally enriched, provided for in retirement… yet leaving behind a corrupted and broken system that cannot serve the people who elected them.

One is left to ask…what’s wrong with this picture?

 

Steve Clark

A Recipe for Surviving Change

It’s certainly easy to become frustrated, angered, even enraged at national and global events. Terrorists are summarily released from Guantanamo to inevitably return to their pursuit of our destruction; original IRS files under investigation, allegedly lacking any archived copies, suddenly disappear and the hard drive that housed them is destroyed; literally thousands of illegal immigrants pour across our southern border daily while the Federal government, charged with our protection, stands by idle and silent; the most radical of radical Islamic terrorists murderously and savagely tear their way through Iraq seizing cities and imposing Sharia Law as they go, negating the efforts we made and the lives we sacrificed to bring that nation a chance for freedom; food and energy prices soar upward while we are told there is no inflation and one hundred million, one third of our population, are unemployed.

ThreatYes, it is definitely easy to be overwhelmed and enraged…easy and terribly wrong.

Overwhelmed people feel victimized and are susceptible to manipulation by anyone promising an end to their frustrations. Enraged people are reactive, fail to reason and consequently, think before they act. Neither false prophets nor indiscriminate actions can serve us now.

The change needed is very simple, if not necessarily easy.

  1. Pull back to your most basic and immediate needs and environment.
  2. Ask yourself, “How will gratuitous anger serve me?
  3. Ask yourself,” What can I do to simplify my life and reduce stress?”
  4. Reach out to neighbors, friends or colleagues to establish a community of support for one another.
  5. Commit to not allowing yourself to be seduced into blame, violence or hatred of others.
  6. Identify and stand firm in your core beliefs regardless of their political correctness…so long as those beliefs are not at the expense of another.
  7. Hold fast to faith in humankind’s awakening to the realization that united we stand and divided we fall as All are One.
  8. Allow truth to emerge from within you rather than allow an agenda to be imposed upon you.

Every historical period has its challenges. This one is no exception. What causes pain and suffering is not change. It’s our resistance to change. The world is changing in rapid and profound ways. Old patterns of behavior and correction will not work. When we switched from horse and buggy to the combustion engine, you could not fuel that engine with oats…although those oats worked just fine under the old system.

Rather than judge who did what and how we got here, let’s use our intellects, our hearts, and our individual uniqueness to co-create solutions. The dawn of a new day brings the opportunity to either repeat yesterday or live today anew.

Free Will. You get to choose.

Carole

Count The Money

“There is no other reason for being in business but to count the money. If you don’t concentrate on counting the money people soon realize that money is not the focus of your consciousness, so they give you everything other than money-kudos, acclaim, praise, etc., and sooner or later you’ll be in trouble.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Stuart Wilde, Author

In the mid 2000’s I worked at Merrill Lynch as a bond trader. At the time we were considered one of the premier investment banks in the world and to work there was really quite amazing. I worked with some really smart and remarkable people, but it had its price. At the end of every day, every trader from every area had to mark his book to determine how much money he had made or lost while the salesman had to tally their production credits to gauge how effective their sales were that day. Needles to say it was quite stressful to be measured each and every day to see how profitable we were. The fact is that Merrill Lynch counted the money each and every day and was always concerned about growing the bottom line.

However two events transpired during that time, well before the financial crisis hit, that I took as a signal that the firm was doomed.

The 1st event was the AIDS moneyQuilt

I use to get to work at 6:45 am every day eager and ready to go when one day, I walked in the main building in lower Manhattan to see a huge AIDS quilt adorning the main lobby. All I could think of was “That is a really weird thing to display in the lobby of an investment bank.” The lobby should have had a monument to the all mighty dollar because every person in that place was there to make lots of money. But upon reflection, what Merrill Lynch wanted people to know is that even though we were an investment bank, they really cared about the gay community and people who had suffered from the AIDS virus. It was the cheapest form of self-promotion and self-aggrandizement I had ever seen.

The best use of a bank’s time is making money, increasing share holder value and managing risk. If Merrill Lynch had done that better they would not have gone bankrupt (nearly) and had to have been sold to Bank of America. Since Merrill Lynch was a premier bank, they thought their status would always be just that and thus turned their focus to improving their “corporate image.”

As a result of Merrill’s mismanagement of finances, thousands of employees were fired, pension funds were decimated and hundreds of thousands of people who relied upon their income from Merrill Lynch investments were adversely affected. So were the firm’s employees. When Merrill Lynch was focused solely upon the money, more lives benefited and the individual employees had more money to give to charities. Now in 2014,all of these former stakeholders  have less money than they did in 2008 and their ability to give to charity has been greatly reduced. The irony is that when Merrill Lynch was focusing on helping the downtrodden less money, not more, actually flowed to them.

The 2nd Event was the hiring of Stanley O’Neal

At the time of his hiring by Merrill Lynch, Stanley Lynch was perceived to be as shrewd shrewd as he was tough at cost cutting. His grandfather was supposedly a slave and Stan’s upbringing and perseverance to land the top job at Merrill was roundly lauded. Stan had worked on the assembly line at GM, paid his way through college and eventually went to Harvard. He had a successful career at General Motors, as well as within Merrill Lynch, before he landed the top job. He ran the company between 2003 and 2008 and during that time he destroyed the company which was subsequently forced to merge with Bank of America.

Although Stan made some of the same mistakes that his counterparts did at Lehman and Bear Stearns, I want to focus on the part that always caught my attention. During his term as President of the firm, he always made it well known that the bank was the only one run by a minority and, specifically, an African-American. You would be hard pressed to scan the news archives between 2002-2004 without seeing that Merrill Lynch was run by a minority as well as the bank championing the cause of minorities in senior positions of responsibility. I believe Merrill Lynch’s laser like focus with the press, as well as within the firm, regarding the color of Stan’s’ skin masked and distracted from his deficiencies. The firm, the street and the general public wanted him to succeed because of what he represented. Instead of focusing on the person, the firm decided to focus on the persona and this is what doomed the firm. Once the firm realized what Stan O’Neal had done to the firm ( loading up on debt and not tending to the firm) it was too late.

I believed then, and still do today, that the firm’s misplaced focus on two political fantasies, corporate charity and minority hiring, sowed the seeds of the firm’s destruction. If Merrill Lynch had devoted more time to what it was created to do, maximize legitimate gain and less to the political correctness of its public image within the gay and black communities, more money would have flowed to its investors and onward to charitable causes.

That’s how uninterrupted capitalism actually works.

Steve Clark